This afternoon, your Washington State Cougars take their 9-11 record and six-game losing streak into the most storied (new) building in the Pac-12 where they’ll take on the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion at 4 p.m.
As mentioned above, WSU has lost six consecutive conference games with its last victory coming on January 3rd against these same Bruins. The difference in the UCLA contest and the rest of the Pac-12 games the Cougs have played has been in the defense. WSU is allowing more than 1.2 points per possession in Pac-12 losses (last in the conference) but was able to shore the defense up a bit and hold UCLA to 1.08 points, while executing their offense at its best rate in over a month, scoring 1.18 per possession, 85 points total.
Today, WSU’s biggest focus will again be on Senior Forward Tony Parker, who is a monster on the offensive glass, pulling down nearly one in six boards on that end of the floor. Between Parker, Thomas Welsh and Isaac Hamilton, the Bruins collected 17 offensive rebounds in their first contest against the Cougs, so it will be imperative for WSU big men to step up and pull down a board.
The big question for WSU this afternoon is if center Valentine Izundu will play and counter the size and athleticism the Bruins bring. Big Val has missed the past seven games but did practice all week and made the trip to Los Angeles, so we’ll see if Ernie Kent has that weapon available or if he will continue to use a combination of Junior Longrus, Connor Clifford and Brett Boese matching up with the big men.
This game will be likely be played at a lightning quick pace, so prepare to be entertained even if the outcome may not be ideal. UCLA and WSU are 3rd and 4th in the conference in number of possessions, both averaging over 75 per game. WSU has been giving up the three ball a lot lately, but UCLA is last in the Pac-12 in attempt rate, only taking threes on about 25% of their shots. And the ones they do take don’t go in very often, only shooting 23% from beyond the arc.
Kenpom.com rates Steve Alford’s squad as the 67th best team in the country and projects an 84-74 victory for the home team with an 82% confidence. Vegas isn’t much different, giving the Cougs ten points, with an over/under of 159.
This page will also serve as your gamethread for this afternoon so feel free to cheer along with us here.